By Ian Dunt
Boris Johnson has boosted his reputation for eccentricity with a demand for Russian president Vladimir Putin to perform half-naked at the Olympic Games.
The London mayor made the comments amid soaring poll ratings, which suggest he would slash Labour's lead if made Conservative leader.
Asked about David Cameron's judo-watching meeting with Putin today, Johnson replied: "I hope he will take part - isn't he a dab hand? I think that's what people want to see - stripped to the waist.
"We want the politicians' Olympics, that's what we want.
The dubious comments come just a day after Johnson was stuck up a zipline above Victoria park, in an image which has now gone viral online.
A YouGov poll for the Sun showed a Boris-led Tory party would slash the Labour lead to just one point.
Thirty-four per cent of people would vote for a Cameron-led Tory party and 40% for Ed Miliband's Labour party. But if Johnson was leader, the governing party's support would rise to 37% and Labour's fall to 38%.
Johnson is the main political beneficiary of the Olympic Games so far, with most of the positive coverage focusing on him.
Even the zip wire incident served to boost his image. There was a trace of irritation yesterday when Cameron commented: "If any other politician was stuck on a zip wire it would be a disaster. For Boris, it’s an absolute triumph.”
Labour is happy to stoke the leadership speculation in a bid to weaken Cameron and also because Labour high command believes – possibly mistakenly – that Johnson would be an easier opponent to defeat at a general election.
“People will love him even more for this," Labour MP Stephen Pound said.
"Everyone I’ve spoken to said: ‘Good old Boris’. David Cameron can feel Boris’s hot breath on his neck.”
Johnson benefits enormously from the reputation of having won Tory control in decidedly left-of-centre London, but there are numerous obstacles to him becoming Tory leader – not least the fact he is not an MP.
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By Ian Dunt
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